Revitalization and Gentrification: Forces for Division or Diversity?

Maryland Civil Rights Commission presents a symposium on community revitalization and the impact of gentrification; where we have been and where we need to go.

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Letters to ed: Johns Hopkins challenged by staff, students, alumni to pay livable wages

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Letter to editor in The Daily Record, Baltimore, published April 10, 2014. Since it was published 8 other alumni and students signed on. Folks were represented from the US and mainland Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico.
Daily Record, let to ed

In regard “Hopkins workers reject pact, begin strike”, April 9, we alumni, students, and staff of the Johns Hopkins Academic Institutions in Baltimore and across mainland US and Puerto Rico, support the opportunity for all hospital workers to receive pay that will enable equitable access to resources and wellbeing. The lack of a live-able wage decreases access to affordable safe and sanitary housing, affordable health care, equitable education, safe and sanitary transportation, affordable recreation, and affordable healthy food. Poverty is the leading cause of poor health according to the World Health Organization. The hospital that is rated the number one health care institution in the country, part of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, has trained us to be leaders in preventive and public health, social determinants of health, and decreasing health inequity. But by paying its workers wages that do not allow them access to resources necessary for achieving health, the institution contributes not only to Baltimore’s pressing crisis of income inequality – the 10th worst in the United States’ big cities – it contributes to inequality in all the resources not affordable with poverty-level wages. We can and must do better to change this history and set a new path toward equity, building a better Baltimore for all. 

Luis Alberto Aviles Anne-Emanuelle Birn
Tyler Brown Rebecca Cohen
Nick Cuneo Hector Gomez Dantes
Lena Z. Denis Elizabeth DuVerlie
Stephanie Farquhar Ruthie Fesahazion
Caroline Fichtenberg Kate Flores
Andrea Gerstenberger Joshua Garoon
Marisela Gomez Kate Hayman
Issac Howley Alexander Jenson
Kate Khatib Sara Evangeline Larson
Kathryn Leifheit Sabriya Linton
Lavanya Madhusudan Jillian Marks
Sara McClean Nicky Methani
Kate Miele Shivani Patel
Isabel Perera Tonia Poteat
Chavi Rhodes Adam Richards
Mike Rogers Max Romano
Samuel Scharff Anthony Serritella
Ellen Shaffer Emma Tsui
Tyler Smith Amber Summers
Jenny Tighe Deanna Wilson
Diana Wohler Julia Zur

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April 7, Baltimore Sun Letter to editor from Hopkins physicians
Baltimore Sun Let to ed

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DSC_1516Hopkins low wage workers and advocates strike for a livable wage

DSC_1521Market rate apartments are constructed next to Hopkins, unaffordable to the low wage workers striking for a livable wage

DSC_1528Hopkins students and staff support a livable wage for all Hopkins workers at a candlelight vigil Wednesday April 9

The rhetoric of power

After another story glossing over the “truth” of equitable access to the new Hopkins-Henderson Community school in East Baltimore, Father Peter Lyons (St. Wenceslaus Church, East Baltimore) and myself wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times. We decided after two weeks that maybe-just saying- they won’t publish it?

Here’s what we had to say:

In regard “Reading, Writing and Renewal (the Urban Kind)” of March 18 2014. “…We wanted Henderson-Hopkins to be an inspiration and magnet for the neighborhood.” A quote from East Baltimore Development Inc’s CEO. Like a similar urban experiment in West Philadelphia, the results are already in. “Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities” by Maia B Cucchiara (2013) describes the outcomes: “In their zeal to attract more middle-class families to the city, policy makers and educators adopted a stance where (white) middle-class families were seen as more valuable and more worthy than the existing working-class families.” If more evidence is needed to tell us where Baltimore’s experiment in social engineering is heading, an application policy and process for school attendance gives relocated residents three days to apply and no notice to historic residents while ample notice to Hopkins staff and students continues, assuring gentrification. The admission policy favors applicants from outside the redevelopment zone who are employed by Johns Hopkins and new developments, over historic residents of the neighborhood. Community organizations must alert residents of upcoming application deadlines and request meetings with the school’s leadership, knowing that existing neighbors are not the target of the magnets rebuilding this East Baltimore neighborhood.

New York Times article, March 18, 2014

Reading, writing, and renewal (the urban kind)

David and Goliath again: low-wage workers and Johns Hopkins Hospital

The current negotiations for a livable wage between low-wage workers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the leadership reminds us of the historical David and Goliath story, again. Putting aside the biblical source and broadening the analogy to a secular world, those without power against those with power is the same ole story here.

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of a typical block in its neighborhood of Middle East Baltimore

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of a typical block in its neighborhood of Middle East Baltimore

Why are we here again? Three years ago I gave a talk at the Fair Development Conference in Baltimore sponsored by United Workers titled “Saving Middle East Baltimore from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions: David and Goliath”. (1) It was a history of land banking and “negro removal” tactics engineered by the Hopkins Institutions over the last 70 years. The impact of such exploitation on the health of the people and place of Middle East Baltimore was discussed. The question asked of the audience was how can we begin to measure the outcomes of the glaring gap between the growth of this powerful institution and the surrounding community, one of the most fragile, poor, and disinvested neighborhoods in Baltimore, with health indicators described by Johns Hopkins as one of the worst in the nation.

Fast forward to 2014 and today the prestigious institution continues its role of Goliath by exploiting those least vulnerable to assure its continued growth in wealth and health. This time the exploited “David” are none other than their own employees who do not earn a living wage. (2,3) If it was not so ironic it would be a wonderful “dark” comedy, particularly since many of the workers in low wage service jobs at the institution are African Americans. But this is not a comedy, a farce, or anything for anyone to laugh about; it is deadly. It is a story which continues to reveal the reason the gap between the rich and the poor and the effects on their health continue to widen: those with access to resources have better health and live longer lives while those with less resources have more illnesses and die at an earlier age. (4,5,6) Low wage workers seeking fair compensation for their labor cannot afford health insurance while working at the number one ranked health care institution in the world. The stress of not having enough money to make ends meet is consistent and chronic and sets up the body and mind to be vulnerable to acute and chronic illnesses such as infections, allergies, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, mental illness, cancers, addiction. (7,8)

Meanwhile the salary of the CEO of Johns Hopkins Hospital and the president of Johns Hopkins University-each earning more than $1 million / year -certainly assures them access to all the resources that would minimize the stressors of affording food, shelter, clothing, and health care. (2,9) This premier health care institution persuades a vulnerable and gullible public that they are there to save lives and make Baltimore a healthy place to live; but for whom? The president of Johns Hopkins University has spoken eloquently of the new Henderson-Hopkins School it is running in East Baltimore as being a model of , “restoring the city’s east side as a safe, prosperous, and vibrant community”. (3) A vibrant and healthy community begins with the members of the community having employment which allows them to afford their homes, health insurance, healthy food, and time to spend with their children and participate in school activities. Poverty-level wages do not allow a vibrant and healthy community to exist or grow. In fact poverty is the leading cause of poor health according to the World Health Organization, among others. (10) Through these unfair labor practices the institution contributes to health disparity/inequity and is itself a social determinant of poor health. In light of its institutes and programs receiving thousands of dollars to eliminate health disparities/inequities, address the social determinants of health, and rebuild healthy urban neighborhoods, there is grave contradiction in what it says it is doing locally, nationally, and internationally and what it is doing at home within its walls and its neighborhood. (11)

The tools that allow this exploitation of the right to a living wage and access to good health are racism and classism and the power that white-run institutions accumulated from the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, unfair laws, policies, and practices that grew the wealth of the few. The government institutions which rubber-stamped these policies and practices then, continue today as powerful public:private partnerships of neoliberalism. Transparency and accountability to the public remains low and corruption remains high. Large public subsidies, tax-exempt status, grants, and below-market value purchases of land from the government subsidize this private for-profit institution with public dollars and assure continued growth in power of this “Goliath”.

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of land cleared for new housing- will their low-wage workers be able to afford to live here?

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of land cleared for new housing- will
their low-wage workers be able to afford to live here?

But today is a new day and after we confirm the data, what do we do? How can we support the current low-wage workers and their advocates-1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East- negotiating for a living wage that affords them health care and safe and sanitary living conditions? We can contact them through their website below, write letters to the editors of all periodicals in the city and beyond, call and write our public officials who vote on permits, grants, and tax-exemptions to the institution at all government levels, and write letters to the publications of the institution. (3) Students and faculty at the university are particularly helpful in writing and talking about this injustice to their colleagues. They can spread the word to their friends and colleagues at other institutions and learn more about wages at other prestigious hospitals and universities around the country. The institution has declared that if there is a strike it will have an alternative workforce ready to continue to provide services-their identified goals of health care delivery justifies their path of pay-inequity, “the-ends-justifies-the-means’ reality. If workers strike because they have no alternative, we can join in on the strike and show solidarity for our brothers and sisters willing to stand up to power: united we can send a powerful message that it is time for all employees to earn a wage which does not place them at risk of living in poverty and becoming sick. We need all the “Davids” to challenge this “Goliath” of Johns Hopkins and send a powerful message that we are tired of inequitable and non-sustainable wages that do not allow low-wage Baltimore workers to afford living in the very communities the institution is rebuilding.

Solidarity

Solidarity

This thinking and practice are revolutionary acts because it goes against the norm of accepting a powerful institution’s oppression of its employees fueled by its unhindered network of connections with government and corporate America. Today it may be service employees but we do not have to wait until tomorrow to see that this inequity in compensation for labor is widespread and is already affecting higher-waged employees at other hospitals and universities across the US. (12,13) Fair compensation helps to assure equitable and sustainable development in our city, and begins to narrow the income and health gap; anything else is a violation of the human rights and the health of individuals and communities and continues the legacy of race and class inequity. (14)

Source/coverage of Johns Hopkins Hospital employees protest for livable wage.
1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East website
The Real News Network
Baltimore Brew
Baltimore Sun

Local stuff: Organizing for equity, public:private power in Baltimore

The union is organizing for living wages and community participation at Baltimore’s institutions:

Johns-Hopkins-Hospital-workers-protest-poverty-wage-pay-scale

Hospital workers union campaign for a living wage for all

The art of organizing: MICA’s adjunct faculty organize

United Workers and East Baltimore community groups organize:Community being left out of Baltimore redevelopment, activists say

Public:private partnerships continue to dictate development in Baltimore, for better or for worse?

Proposed-ebdi-zoning-would-pave-the-way-for-market-rate-housing

Public housing sold to private interests